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Feldman, M. (1990). Common Ground: The Centrality of the Oedipus Complex. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 71:37-48.

(1990). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 71:37-48

Common Ground: The Centrality of the Oedipus Complex

Michael Feldman


In 1920 Freud wrote: 'It has justly been said that the Oedipus complex is the nuclear complex of the neuroses, and constitutes the essential part of their content … With the progress of psycho-analytic studies the importance of the Oedipus complex has become more and more clearly evident …' (Freud, 1905, p. 226). We have indeed come to share an understanding that the pattern of introjections and identifications based on oedipal phantasies constitutes a crucial element in the development of the personality and in the manifestations of pathology.

In our analytic work we have learned to focus on the way in which the conscious and unconscious elements of the Oedipus complex are lived out in the transference. We are familiar with the oedipal phantasies which involve representations of the patient's primary objects which are clearly differentiated from one another, relating to each other and to the patient himself in ways which involve conflict, jealousy and guilt. Many analysts have, in addition, come to recognize the presence of earlier, more primitive versions of the oedipal phantasies, and here the primary objects are often represented in a damaged state, not always differentiated from one another, and often felt to be very threatening.

The way in which phantasies, conflicts and anxieties, particularly those connected with primitive versions of the Oedipus complex are worked through in the transference affects the patient's tendency to move towards, or away from greater psychic integration.

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